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Abortion-Related Bills Flood State Legislatures

April 27, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - The number of abortion-related bills has dramatically increased nationwide this year, with measures before legislators in more than 30 states. Some would restrict insurance coverage for abortions, others would require pre-abortion tests and waiting periods or cut funding to family-planning services. Reproductive-health advocates say changes in the political make-up of state legislatures after elections last fall played a major role in the increase.

That's not what voters expected, according to the Rev. Rebecca Turner of Faith Aloud. She says the economy had been the main subject of debate - not abortion.

"This is definitely the most extreme swing to the right that we have seen. It has been building for quite a number of years. But this particular time, this happened because of a bait-and-switch that happened in the last election."

In Texas, facing a huge budget shortfall, the Republican-dominated House voted to strip $60 million from family planning services. Ironically, the cuts could lead to more unintended pregnancies and more abortions, according to Houston representative Jessica Farrar, head of the House Democrats. Farrar predicts an eventual backlash from middle-of-the-road voters, who will wonder what happened to the 2010 focus on jobs.

She says Gov. Rick Perry set the tone for his party at the beginning of the year, by citing cultural issues as state emergencies.

"So, what did we have as 'emergency' legislation? A sonogram bill! Like, that one's really going to help a whole lot of people."

The Texas Senate this week is expected to take up its version of the House-passed bill (HB 15) requiring women to undergo sonograms before abortions. Farrar says lawmakers, who were elected to address a faltering economy, so far have only made the situation worse by focusing primarily on cuts designed to please a conservative base.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX